By Lonnie Wilkey
JACKSON — With so many alleged and actual cases of sexual misconduct rampant in today’s society, ministers must be intentional in protecting their ministries, said Tony Rankin.
“The increasing number of ministers who have their lives affected by inappropriate relationships has probably already hit somebody you know,” observed Rankin, a clinical therapist and minister of pastoral care at First Baptist Church, Nashville.
“It may have included texting, pornography, or other alluring behaviors. We live in a sexually explosive and exploitive society,” Rankin said.
Rankin led a breakout session during The Summit in Jackson on “Protecting Your Ministry in the Sexual Misconduct Avalanche Today.”
“We lived in a crazed society,” he observed. “We are all fair game.”
He cautioned ministers and their spouse to be extremely cautious, even with “seemingly unimportant decisions.” Those decisions can include friendships, how you greet people, placing yourself in positions such as riding in a car with someone of the opposite sex, messages on social media outlets, and numerous other decisions, he said.
Rankin noted that an avalanche can be triggered by something relatively small and snowball out of control.
The Nashville-based counselor offered several “trigger points” that could lead to a sexual misconduct avalanche.
• Freedom from criticism. People often try to escape criticism, either from the church or family, and can be tempted by pornography or non-marriage relationships, Rankin said.
• Ease of facelessness and anonymity. A lot of men and women get sucked into the lure of pornography because it is anonymous, he suggested.
• The dream of desirability and the attractiveness of no rejection. Rankin said people tend to fear rejection, making it easier to be lured to another person.
• The lure of acceptance. People have “a desire to be accepted,” Rankin observed.
• Relief from stress. Rankin observed the irony of this trigger “Sexuality appears to be a relief from stress, but I have yet to find a person who becomes stress free by using pornography or having an extramarital affair,” he said.
Other trigger points can include the “rush” of keeping a secret, satisfaction of sexual appetite and avoiding boredom, Rankin added.
When asked by a breakout participant of proactive steps to take, Rankin advised ministers to be transparent with their congregations.
Make sure your church knows that sexual misconduct issues are being discussed and that there are things you won’t do. “We take care of ourselves by talking about it,” Rankin said.
He encouraged the use of cameras throughout the church. “The more people watching you, the more protected you are.”
Rankin acknowledged that it is “nearly impossible” to stop accusations. “We can’t stop accusations from happening, but we can do what we can to make sure there’s nothing to those accusations,” he said. B&R